Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Conservative Councillor - Corruption

A city councillor has been charged with corruption after allegedly taking bribes from developers. Jezz Baker will appear before magistrates later this month following an investigation by Hampshire police's Serious and Organised Crime Unit.

The 46-year-old, who represents the Hilsea ward on Portsmouth City Council, stood down from the planning committee after he was arrested last April. He has now been charged with two counts of receiving money and wine for assisting with planning applications.

He is accused of taking £250 and wine on December 20, 2006, and £500 on January 9, 2007.

But Cllr Baker told The News he was innocent.
'This country still believes you're innocent until proven guilty,' he said.
'I'm being accused of accepting bribes, but I'm not on the city council to line my pockets. I'm on the city council to do the right thing for the people of Portsmouth.
'This whole thing should make a lot of people wonder why anyone would want to be on the city council.

'I've spent 10 months so far waiting for the police to make a decision and I still deny the accusation.'

Cllr Baker, of Mulberry Avenue, Cosham, was suspended by the Conservative Party.
remains on the council as an independent and has not yet decided whether to stand for election again in May.

Cllr Steve Wemyss, leader of Portsmouth Conservatives, said: 'It's a sad day for all of us when this sort of thing happens.

'Most people have a low opinion of politicians at the best of times and whether Jezz is innocent or guilty people will just sit and tut to themselves. It's a misconception, but a popular one.

'If he's fighting to clear his name he cannot devote his time to his duties as a member of the Conservative group and while he's presumed innocent until proven guilty, the fact he's been charged is an escalation of this serious process.'

He added: 'If he's found to be innocent he'll no longer be suspended.'

It is not known what planning applications the charges relate to.

Cllr Baker will appear at Aldershot Magistrates' Court on January 31.


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